While after-school activities were taking place at the Phoenixville Area High School (PAHS), Thomas Conroy arrived at his former residence at 1208 Lincoln Avenue determined to kill - which brought about the death of his stepdaughter, 15-year-old Alana Mary MacNeil, and himself.
Phoenixville Detective Sgt. Tom Goggin said Conroy showed up at the residence with a .12 gauge sawed-off shotgun at 4:42 p.m. Tuesday, April 19.
"The shotgun was sawed off at the barrel and the butt," said Goggin. "He basically came there determined to kill."
However, the only one at home at the time was MacNeil.
The other two residents of the house, Caroline Conroy, and her youngest daughter, Faith Rose Conroy, weren't at home during the ordeal.
Goggin said MacNeil answered the door and refused to let Conroy in.
"Conroy fired two shots and blew the lock cylinder off of the door. He then forced his way into the residence," Goggin continued. "... It appears that he killed the girl, and was waiting for her mother to come home.
"He must've become aware that the police were outside, and that the mother wasn't showing up, so he took his own life."
Upon the first shot being fired within the residence, police responded to the scene and began to set up a perimeter. Lt. William Mossman said that the remaining shots were fired as police were setting up their perimeter.
"We had our first officer on the scene within 90 seconds of the first two shots fired. There were no shots fired past 5 p.m.," said Mossman. "We are not aware of any shots that were fired outside of the house. We attempted to make contact with Conroy through the telephone and with public address calls from outside the residence."
Police from throughout Chester County cordoned off numerous borough streets that afternoon as SWAT teams assembled, and negotiators and a mobile command unit were brought in to handle communications for the situation. The entire neighborhood was placed in lockdown, including PAHS.
SWAT team members made their way toward the Lincoln Avenue residence by traveling behind City Line Avenue houses.
SWAT team members and police were eventually cleared to begin entering the residence. At approximately 7:33 p.m., the two bodies were discovered and the standoff was over. Two West End Ambulances were summoned to the residence shortly afterwards.
Mossman said MacNeil was found dead in a bedroom, while Conroy, who shot himself in the head, was discovered in the master bedroom.
Goggin said that Conroy randomly fired shots, eight total, inside the residence, one destroying the television set. Detectives discovered that Conroy had 11 unfired shotgun shells on his person.
"He wasn't acting rationally," said Goggin. "He smelled of alcohol. It appears that he made his mind up to kill, and he was prepared to kill anyone that got in his path."
Prior to Conroy's arrival at 1208 Lincoln Avenue, Mossman said, Conroy was involved in a hit-and-run accident in Limerick Township.
Conroy, who once lived at the Lincoln Avenue residence, had been residing in Willow Grove.
Goggin said that Thomas Conroy and Caroline Conroy were still married, but were in the process of going through a divorce. "There was a domestic relations hearing scheduled for this coming Friday (April 22)," he said at the time.
Mossman said that his department had been at the residence in the past for several domestic disturbances and Protection From Abuse order violations.
"He continued to harass the household after he'd left there," he said.
Goggin said that it appeared that MacNeil had come home from school and started a chicken dinner for her family.
"When Conroy showed up, she locked the door, and that's when he fired the two shots at the door," he said. "She did the only thing possible, and that is she took the cordless phone and ran for safety inside the house. She was trying to make contact with someone to save her. She had just established contact with the 911 center before she lost her life."
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On Wednesday, April 20, every Phoenixville Area Middle School and PAHS student in attendance went to one of several assemblies designed to help with bereavement.
About 50 PAHS students received individual counseling from a pool of all the district counselors, crisis intervention specialists and psychologists.
Many students had inscribed messages on a pair of large posters at the high school's entrance, with the intent to turn their thoughts and feelings over one day to the family of their fallen classmate.
MacNeil was a 10th-grader at PAHS, where she was a member of the Key Club and yearbook committee.
She graduated from Holy Family School in Phoenixville, where she played on the field hockey team.
MacNeil was born and raised in Phoenixville, the daughter of Caroline (Ryan) Conroy of Phoenixville and Alan MacNeil of Wayne.
She was a member of St. Ann Catholic Church, where she was an Altar Server.
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More than 600 family members, friends, classmates and mourners gathered Monday morning, April 25, at St. Ann Catholic Chapel to remember the life of MacNeil.
The hourlong funeral Mass, officiated by Father John J. Newns, drew a standing-room-only crowd who came to say good-bye to MacNeil.
Among the people to speak during the hour-long funeral mass was MacNeil's best friend, Stephanie Fuga.
With a great deal of composure, Fuga spoke of the many memories she had with MacNeil, including the times spent in and out of school, the numerous phone calls, and the past New Year's Eve party at MacNeil's house.
"We hung out and played games that night," said Fuga. "We had a great time."
She said that MacNeil was excited about planning a Cinco De Mayo party, and that invitations had been mailed out already.
Also remembering the 10th-grade student from Phoenixville Area High School was her history teacher, Hank Coyne.
He said that he was called into the principal's office that Thursday, and was asked to speak on behalf of the school.
"She was an excellent honor student. There were times when I'd say to her, 'MacNeil, you're going down,' and she'd reply, 'Go for it.' She was always involved in class, and excellent at debate," said Coyne.
It was a homework assignment for Coyne's History Class, on the Korean War, that MacNeil was working on right before the time of her death.
"I'll find it difficult from now on when we approach the Korean War during 9th period History," said Coyne.
Gary Johnson, who was asked to speak on behalf of the family, read a verse titled, "Angels," and spoke about MacNeil.
"Alana is certainly in a much better place now," said Johnson. "She was loved by so many, and she'll be missed by so many more."
Following the Mass, the funeral procession made their way to St. Ann Cemetery, Phoenixville.
One of the mourners, Gina Trader, fought back tears as she spoke of MacNeil.
"This is truly sad to lose someone so young," said Trader. "She had a lot of life ahead of her, and now she's gone."
Memorial contributions may be sent to the Alana Mary MacNeil Memorial Fund, c/o Phoenixville Federal Bank & Trust, 120 Main Street, P.O. Box 708, Phoenixville, Pa. 19460.